In these unprecedented times, office employees were quickly forced to adjust to working from home. And, as a result, those with direct reports must now lead remotely. The good news is that, despite what many believe, “Productivity of employees who work from home is 13% higher than office-bound colleagues,” according to Stanford University.
Nonetheless, managing remote employees – especially during this time when all of our lives have been turned upside down – presents a new challenge for managers and other leaders. Our 3-part on-demand webinar series covers all aspects of navigating remote work and leadership during COVID-19.
Here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you navigate this new environment:
Do: Focus on your team.
- Create a culture of follow up and follow through: Set clear goals and expectations, and then keep your team accountable and vice versa.
- Organize scheduled one-on-ones
- Be encouraging: Recognize your team members by writing a short email, texting a quick message and the like. Be creative!
- Build connections: This is always a good practice, but now more than ever we need them. Quick daily check-ins are a good idea.
- Have “open door” hours: Schedule daily hours that you will be available to talk with your employees.
- Find the good: During these time, you may discover some hidden strengths/talents on your team.
- Forget your manners
- Assume they know what you’re thinking, what you want, how you’re feeling, how your day has been, etc.
- Be disrespectful of their time
- Focus more on their schedule versus results
- Micromanage: Instead, DO lead based on what your direct reports need and communicate when you need more from them.
- Let standards/expectations slide
- Lose sight of business goals
- Be consistent, clear and courteous
- Quality versus quantity
- Understand the context
- Promote teamwork, no “us” versus “them”
- Stay calm under pressure
- Regarding your organization’s messages:
- Own them
- Show respect for the organization, other teams, other functions
- Set team/individual communication norms (e.g., NNTR = No Need to Respond)
- Make time for “small” talk
- Move from certainty to curiosity: Fight the assumption of negative intentions and ask questions when even a little bit in doubt
- Ask “good” questions: For example, “What’s getting in your way?” and “What has been a ‘win’ for you today?”
- Technology: Regularly update your availability on Skype, MS Teams, etc.; Explore and experiment with different programs, apps, etc.
- Make assumptions in general, in particular that you have been understood (e.g., “This needs to be done quickly.”)
- Communicate as you would in person
- Be a communication bully: Choose your communication volume wisely. Do you really need to text, email and voicemail the same message?
- Think brief communication is clear communication: Sometimes brief is not enough
- Forget a team member
Leading a Team Remotely – big picture guidelines
Check out additional best practices to help keep your teams thriving while working away from the office.
- Monitor team communication.
- Are email threads getting too long?
- Are all relevant parties copied on communications?
- What seems effective/ineffective?
- What feedback do you need?
- Conduct impromptu check-Ins via Microsoft Teams, Skype, text, etc.
- Send team updates.
- Determine what frequency is appropriate (e.g., weekly, daily). This could vary by project or other variables.
- Check your tone: Is it encouraging? Informative?
- Schedule regular one-on-one calls with each direct report to discuss:
- Virtual “water cooler”
- How are you doing?
- Are there any challenges you are experiencing working remotely.
- Scheduling organized calls
- How often should we have a scheduled call?
- When? (set up calendar invites immediately)
- What will be discussed?
- How should we communicate between calls?
- Email? Skype? Text? IM? Call?
- What is your preference? What is my preference?
- Office hours
- Agree that when unsure about any communication, ask! This will minimize misinterpretation.
- Hold a weekly video team meeting.
- Include all appropriate employees
- Ask an opening question to build connection (e.g., “What’s one thing you did this week that you didn’t expect to?,” “What’s the funniest thing that happened this week?,” etc.)
- Seek feedback
- What’s working? What isn’t? What do we need to adjust?
- How are we communicating?
- Focus on business objectives: updates, results, priorities, challenges, etc.
- Also allow and even encourage laughter, lightheartedness
- Stay on time
Following these Dos, Don’ts and big picture guidelines will give you a good starting point for developing your remote leadership style. Then, make adjustments along the way to match the needs of your business, employees and projects.